Labor Trafficking Case Exposes Endemic Abuse in Minnesota’s Construction Industry
Last week, the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) helped local authorities bring a labor trafficking case against construction contractor Ricardo Batres – making this one of the first labor trafficking cases filed in Minnesota.
Batres knowingly recruited undocumented men to work for his company, American Contractors and Associates LLC, and leveraged deportation threats against them to coerce them into working exceedingly long hours for very little pay. Batres also failed to provide the workers with adequate safety protection, and did not purchase legally-required workers’ compensation insurance.
Construction workers in this case worked on projects led by Reuter Walton, one of the largest developers and general contractors in Minneapolis, and Lennar, the single largest home-builder in the Twin Cities metro area since 2006.
Writing in The Nation, Michelle Chen summarized the significance of the case as such:
"Though labor-trafficking prosecutions are rare in this industry, advocates say the case illustrates who really pays for the Twin Cities’ new office towers and suburban row houses: the immigrant workers whose labor is rewarded with broken bodies and one-way tickets back across the border."
Workers and community allies are now planning to meet with local developers and general contractors to propose long-term changes in the industry that ensure dignity and respect for all construction workers in the Twin Cities metro area.
Image: CTUL member Luis Nuñez speaking at a press conference held with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.